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Catholic cruises to 41-6 win over Hillcrest-Evergreen in physical Class 3A quarterfinal

Story by Kamarri Darrington | Central Alabama Scoreboard Writer’s Club

Photos by Thomas Stabler | CAScoreboard Photographer

MONTGOMERY–Catholic’s defense was presented with a challenge after allowing Hillcrest-Evergreen to score late in the first half of the Class 3A quarterfinal on Friday.

Post a second-half shutout.

The Knights responded in kind, leaving the Jaguars scoreless to help finish off a 41-6 victory to advance to next Friday’s state semifinal.

Catholic (13-0) forced four punts and intercepted its third pass of the night to cap off a performance during which it held Hillcrest (7-6) to just 180 total yards.

Still, there were some things for Catholic head coach Kirk Johnson to pick apart.

“That last drive (by Hillcrest in the first half) was not Montgomery Catholic football,” Johnson said. “That was a team that thought it had made it. That was a team that wasn’t focused and that’s on us as coaches. We’ve got to avoid complacency when we go out there. We were not happy right there.”

The rest of the night was pretty good for Catholic even when Hillcrest-Evergreen tried to turn the game into a cage match.

The Knights settled for a 35-yard field goal by Gabe Russo before quarterback Caleb McCreary completed a 42-yard touchdown pass to Justin Rose to put Catholic up 10-0 in the first quarter. 

McCreary would throw an interception on Catholic’s next drive, but Jourdan Thomas intercepted the very next pass from Jaguars quarterback Jermonte Stallworth. Jeremiah Cobb scored from a yard out to give Catholic a 17-0 lead in the second quarter.

Then, TJ Dudley found the end zone once again. Dudley stepped in front of another pass from Stallworth and took it 35 yards for the final Catholic points of the first half. Dudley’s fourth pick-six of the year came after missing another interception earlier in the half.

“I told my coaches every time I touch the ground with the ball, I’m going to score,” Dudley said. “I stayed on my mark and read the quarterback’s eyes. I knew I had it all the way.”

The Knights offense was just as efficient in the second half. Following a 41-yard field goal by Callan Gadilhe, Cobb scored from 7 yards out for a 34-6 lead with three minutes remaining in the third quarter. 

The final points of the night came from Lucas Harkless, who caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from a scrambling McCreary just a minute into the fourth quarter.

“We knew Hillcrest was going to be a physical team,” McCreary said. “We knew they weren’t going to give up. We just had to adjust and battle back. We didn’t retaliate when they tried. We were well prepared.”

McCreary completed 6 of 13 passes for 132 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Cobb rushed for 153 yards and two scores on 27 carries. Willie Hall III had Catholic’s third interception on defense.

Catholic’s next opponent: Montgomery Academy. The Eagles defeated TR Miller 28-0 to set up the rematch of last season’s state semifinal, which was won by Catholic 35-28 in overtime.

Catholic hasn’t given up more than seven points in a game all season, including a 42-0 shutout of MA in September. Catholic has a school-record eight shutouts this season.

“It doesn’t matter who we play,” Johnson said. “When you get to the third and fourth round, everyone is good. MA has done a great job but we’re worried about Montgomery Catholic and how we play football and that’s being ready on every play. If we do that, we should be fine.”

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